As is their tradition, Marvel and Netflix didn't just bring a clip of their latest show to their panel. They brought the whole first episode, and we have a spoiler-free review. Short version: It's awesome.
We had already been told that Defenders would begin with each character following separate breadcrumbs that would eventually link them up, and that is absolutely the case in the first episode. If you were a fan of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage or Iron Fist, this first episode picks up with each character and their separate scenes feel very true to their standalone series.
If the Defenders is meant to follow the path laid down by the movies -- solo adventures, seasoned with a few linked Easter eggs, and culminating in a big team-up -- then the TV version is actually slightly better than its big screen big brother. The extra time afforded an eight-episode series means that it has a lot more time to put all the characters in the same room. Each character's motive gets space to breathe and the show makes sure that anyone who doesn't remember every detail from the past five seasons of television isn't lost. I felt like even if I had quit one of the previous Marvel/Netflix series halfway through, I'd still know everything I'd need to about these characters by the time the first Defenders episode ended.
That said, knowing all four shows does add an extra element of joy, since every time we see these great characters that haven't met share the screen, it's a little bundle of joy -- just as much as seeing Iron Man and Captain America meet for the first time.
I also have to spare a few words for Sigourney Weaver as Alexandra. She's terrifying. She's poised and polished and absolutely driven. Clothed in white, she gives off a power that clearly has been sitting on her shoulders a long time. This isn't a villain lashing out because of some hurt. She has a goal and everyone else is being pulled along in its wake.
The show's writing is strong enough to stand on its own -- its almost shocking how well it carries four leads, a ton of exposition, and the fun moments the fans want. When the first episodes ends, you'll want more. Thank goodness Netflix releases the entire season at once.